The Spirit of the Border
"So you want to know all about Wetzel?" inquired Colonel Zane of Joe, when, having left
Jim and Mr. Wells, they returned to the cabin.
"I am immensely interested in him," replied Joe.
"Well, I don't think there's anything singular in that. I know Wetzel better, perhaps, than
any man living; but have seldom talked about him. He doesn't like it. He is by birth a
Virginian; I should say, forty years old. We were boys together, and and I am a little
beyond that age. He was like any of the lads, except that he excelled us all in strength and
agility. When he was nearly eighteen years old a band if Indians--Delawares, I think--
crossed the border on a marauding expedition far into Virginia. They burned the old
Wetzel homestead and murdered the father, mother, two sisters, and a baby brother. The
terrible shock nearly killed Lewis, who for a time was very ill. When he recovered he
went in search of his brothers, Martin and John Wetzel, who were hunting, and brought
them back to their desolated home. Over the ashes of the home and the graves of the
loved ones the brothers swore sleepless and eternal vengeance. The elder brothers have
been devoted all these twenty years and more to the killing of Indians; but Lewis has
been the great foe of the redman. You have already seen an example of his deeds, and
will hear of more. His name is a household word on the border. Scores of times he has
saved, actually saved, this fort and settlement. His knowledge of savage ways surpasses
by far Boone's, Major McColloch's, Jonathan's, or any of the hunters'."
"Then hunting Indians is his sole occupation?"
"He lives for that purpose alone. He is very seldom in the settlement. Sometimes he stays
here a few days, especially if he is needed; but usually he roams the forests."
"What did Jeff Lynn mean when he said that some people think Wetzel is crazy?"
"There are many who think the man mad; but I do not. When the passion for Indian
hunting comes upon him he is fierce, almost frenzied, yet perfectly sane. While here he is
quiet, seldom speaks except when spoken to, and is taciturn with strangers. He often
comes to my cabin and sits beside the fire for hours. I think he finds pleasure in the
conversation and laughter of friends. He is fond of the children, and would do anything
for my sister Betty."
"His life must be lonely and sad," remarked Joe.
"The life of any borderman is that; but Wetzel's is particularly so."
"What is he called by the Indians?"
"They call him Atelang, or, in English, Deathwind."